Asperger syndrome is a neurological disorder resulting in a group of social and behavioral symptoms. It is part of a category of conditions called autism spectrum disorders. Children with Asperger syndrome usually have normal intelligence and do not have the language problems typical of autism.
The cause of Asperger syndrome is unknown. Some experts believe a variety of factors may be responsible.
Asperger syndrome is more common in boys. Family history of autism spectrum disorder may also be a risk factor.
Symptoms usually become noticeable around 2-½ or 3 years of age. Symptoms may range from mild to severe and can include:
There are no tests for Asperger syndrome. The diagnosis is based on observations of the child's behavior. Neuropsychological and IQ tests may be done. Medical tests may be ordered to help rule out other conditions. Children and their families can benefit from early intervention. Knowing what is wrong also helps families understand why the child acts differently than other children.
There is no treatment to cure Asperger syndrome. Treatments aim to control symptoms and improve social skills. Children often learn to function independently when they become adults. However, they usually continue to experience problems with social interaction. They may be at risk for learning disabilities, such as attention deficit disorder (ADD). They also may develop mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety. Children with Asperger syndrome need love and understanding, as well as a structured schedule.
Drugs to help control symptoms may include:
The supplement melatonin may be helpful in improving sleep. But, talk to the doctor before giving herbs or supplements to your child.
Behavior modification therapy and training can help children develop social skills. Learning how to make and keep friends is a challenge for children with Asperger syndrome.
Caring for a child with Asperger syndrome can be stressful. Counselors help parents learn how to manage the child's behavior. Suggestions include:
Children with Asperger syndrome usually have a normal IQ. However, they have special educational needs. They often can attend regular schools. They may need extra support in the classroom. Special attention should be paid to building social skills. Teachers should be informed of the child's needs. Children with Asperger syndrome may be teased or bullied because they seem different.
Asperger Syndrome Education Network
Online Asperger Syndrome Information and Support (OASIS)
Autism Society Canada
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Last reviewed March 2013 by Rimas Lukas, MD